It’s that time of the year again! Seasonal allergies are the topic of many chats with patients lately, and it’s surprising the number of people who suffer year after year after year… and don’t do much more than take a Claritin or use a face mask every day for a couple of weeks to get some relief. Well today we’re talking about natural allergy remedies that can help relieve some of the itchy-eyes/nose/throat-watery-everything-ness that comes with the spring and summer seasons. These tips are also useful for those with year-round allergies to pets or dust or… anything really!
First, let’s get one thing straight – as I’ve said before in this post, the gut is the first place to start with most health issues and allergies are certainly no exception. When you are having an allergic reaction, it’s due to the release of histamine, a neurotransmitter, from mast cells that belong to your immune system. Histamine causes local inflammation and vasodilation, which brings more fluid and cells to the local area and gives you swollen, watery eyes and a runny nose. When allergens interact with your immune system you get the symptoms of itchiness, sneezing and increased secretions from the eyes and nose. And get this: at least 80% of the histamine your body produces is formed in the gut. What! That’s right – the symptoms may be in your nose, eyes, and throat, but often the culprit is your irritated intestines. This is why my very first suggestion to help with allergy symptoms is…
1. An anti-inflammatory diet – cut down on the irritation of the immune system in the gut, cut down on the amount of histamine produced and released by mast cells, and you’ll inevitably cut down on your allergy symptoms. The most common food irritants include: dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt), gluten (barley, rye, wheat, spelt, non-gluten-free-oats), soy, sugar, processed foods made with chemicals, non-organic meats, and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant). For three weeks, cut these out of your diet and I know you’ll be breathing clearer.
2. Neti pot with saline – I love my neti pot. You can buy them almost anywhere (Shoppers Drug Mart carries them in Ontario), and it’s a quick, simple way to flush out your sinuses. Use 1 tsp of salt or a saline package in a neti pot full with body temperature water. Lean forward over a sink, and flush one nostril at a time making sure that the saline runs out the other side. When you’re done, blow out any excess water and take a deep breath – feels good, huh? I use my neti for allergies, when my sinuses are blocked up, and also when I’m traveling for those dry hotel rooms.
3. Local honey – if you’re allergic to something outside (pollen, hay fever) it is recommended to buy and eat some locally-produced honey from a beekeeper in your area. Bees make honey from the pollen of local plants, and your daily consumption of a small amount can help de-sensitize your body to the allergen. It’s recommended you take 1-2 tsp a day of honey produced as close to your area as possible, and to start this practice about 1 month before allergy season hits.
4. Nettle infusions – nettle’s latin name is Urtica dioica, and it’s the leaves we use for their anti-allergic superpowers. Buy some high quality nettle leaves from a herbal dispensary or health food store and do the following: add 1/4 cup of nettle leaves per cup of boiling water to a mason jar or other glass container in the evening; add to this 1 tbsp of molasses for taste if you like; cover the jar and let it steep overnight on the counter; in the morning, strain out the tea leaves and sip on the infusion throughout the day. The liquid will be quite dark green/black in the morning, but don’t let that scare you! It has a nice, herbal taste, and the molasses helps to sweeten and add nutrients. There are no contraindications or toxicities associated with nettle leaves, but if you’re taking any medications it’s best to check with your ND first.
5. Apple cider vinegar – taking apple cider vinegar as a shot or in a little water every day can help fight allergies. The theory is that it works on the lymphatic system, helping to drain out mucous and inflammatory products. Ask your ND how often and how much would work best for you, but taking it daily throughout allergy season is quite beneficial for most allergy sufferers.
What do you do to fight seasonal allergies?